Big city survey: Dundee
Big city survey: Dundee
All cities like to brag. Usually the reality lies somewhere between the city’s perception of itself and the gospel truth.
Playing the parlour game of "famous Dundonians" is easy. There’s Robert Watson Watt, who invented radar; Janet Keillor who gave us marmalade for breakfast, and James Chalmers who thought up the adhesive postage stamp. Not to mention Dennis the Menace, the Bash Street Kids and Desperate Dan. But what about today’s Dundonian movers and shakers?
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At a time of popular reassessment of the city, one particular area of Dundee success has always been known, if rarely voiced by Dundonians themselves. Dundee’s sporting prowess has been a badge of honour worn discreetly, but then gloating is one activity in which the natives have rarely excelled.
This is a tale of two cities.
Mention Dundee today and you think of joysticks rather than the traditional jam, jute and journalism.
THE flowering of Dundee’s digital entertainment industry has a visual as well as an electronic genesis.
At Dundee Rep, they’re in the middle of rehearsals for their autumn production of The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster’s dark, beautiful and challenging Jacobean tragedy, first seen in London in 1614. On stage there is a full cast of 12 professional actors, not an unusual sight in Dundee these days, but a large number by modern rep standards; only a few years ago, this same theatre was struggling to stage any show that involved a cast of more than four.
The external Scottish vision of Dundee’s economy is rustbelt factories and mass unemployment. Neither could be further from the truth. The city’s real economic problem is a mismatch of skills between its traditional labour force and a burgeoning entrepreneurial economy that you don’t find in the rest of Scotland.
After a prolonged period of steady progression, Dundee’s residential property market has been surging ahead over recent months as the city vies to match the spectacular growth in house prices witnessed in Scotland’s other major cities, particularly the capital.
Scottish civic leaders tend to come in two versions. There are the street fighters like Glasgow’s bantamweight Charlie Gordon. And there are the cool intellectuals, like Edinburgh’s Donald Anderson. Given Dundee’s manufacturing and working class past, it might be expected its political leadership would be represented by the former tendency rather than the latter. But not so - another indication that the modern city is much more sophisticated than some outsiders give it credit for.
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